McFarland fruit-breeding facility expected to attract talent, partner companies

The research and development facility being built in the McFarland area by fruit breeder International Fruit Genetics LLC comes with hopes it will attract not just top scientific talent but also partner companies in the global push for plants that are better suited to extreme weather, drought, disease and labor shortage.

IFG had employee recruitment in mind when it designed the property’s series of laboratories, including what would be Kern County’s first private-sector, federally certified clean plant-growing facility. The facility’s university-like campus was laid out for top biologists from around the country to “feel at home and motivated,” CEO Andy Higgins said.

But that’s not what Higgins was referring to when he said the company’s vision was that “if you build it, they will come.” He meant IFG expects to attract and collaborate with automation companies and those using sensor-based algorithms for optimizing moisture and sunlight. The $14 million project follows the recent opening of a similar facility in Wasco by fellow fruit breeder Sun World International LLC. Both are introducing high technology to Kern County agriculture in ways expected to extend across the globe.

Higgins said Fruitworks / The IFG Discovery Center, now about halfway built and expected to fully open in fall 2023, was a big part of the reason IFG received a purchase offer from food breeder SNFL Investments LLC, a subsidiary of Spanish conglomerate AM Fresh and its minority partner in the transaction, Swedish investment firm EQT Future. AM Fresh wanted an R&D presence in North America for work on joint projects, he said, adding that the McFarland complex will be bigger than the Spanish company’s own labs in Europe.

During a tour Wednesday of the 160-acre facility along Elmo Highway, Higgins went over the painstaking measures IFG uses to identify favorable plant traits, including long stems and consistent bunch sizes for purposes of automation. He explained plans to run 20,000-plus seedlings per year through a series of tests to see how well they hold up to weather and water extremes, shipping and consumer tastes. “It’s a big investment, but we know there’s big challenges coming down the road,” he said.

The project consolidates IFG’s operations around Kern and brings more functions in-house. Fruitworks is expected to have 25,000 square feet of greenhouses, plus laboratory and support buildings totaling 28,000 square feet. Hundreds of fruit varieties already grow in the property’s vineyards and cherry orchards. The property is expected to allow IFG to expand its staff of about 55 by as many as 17 scientists and other researchers.

Much of the attraction of Fruitworks, Higgins expects, is its scientific rigor. There will be a pathology lab in which plants known to be free of impurities will be exposed to diseases, and next to it, a biology and general chemistry lab where the company expects to learn more about flavor and the experience of eating fruit.

From there Higgins continued to a tissue culture lab space where small plant cells will be grown inside test tubes in a strictly sterile environment. Clones of these plants will be exported overseas to growers that pay for a license to grow IFG’s varieties.

Next, he showed off an incomplete greenhouse planned to be certified as clean by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. After that, he proceeded to another greenhouse where plant cuttings will be exposed to temperature and drought extremes, and from there, to a “hard-knock” area putting fruit plants through even tougher conditions.

A cold storage area was Higgins’ next stop, with its post-harvest physiology lab for testing fruit varieties against a list of performance measures. Among other hurdles to be cleared is a requirement grapes taste the same 45 days after harvest as they do when freshly picked.

Behind the laboratory complex stand row after row of vineyards filling with grape varieties with names like Bebop, Julep and Quip, chosen for their easy pronunciation and lack of negative connotations in at least 12 different languages. Many of the grapes showed surface waxiness, a characteristic sometimes mistaken for pesticide, but which actually offers protection and fetches a premium in Asian markets.

Some of the grapes were red, some green or yellow; others were black, a sign of highest antioxidant concentration. Raisins growing nearby were drying on the vine, an improvement to conventional processes that either cost more or risk moisture damage. In July IFG patented its first raisin variety, which Higgins said was a first for a private-sector breeder. Drying on the vine also makes for easier automation, he added. “That’s what the California industry is really looking for,” he said.

Merced farming family recognized for tenacity, keeping local ranch going for 125 years

Frenchy Meissonnier doesn’t get around his Merced ranch as easily as he used to when he was younger.
At 72 years old, there are some aches and pains that come with being a lifelong farmer. Meissonnier is a third-generation rice farmer. His father was a rice farmer, as well as his grandfather before that. “It’s taken a toll on me,” Meissonnier said. “I’m pretty worn out.”

However, Meissonnier says he wouldn’t want it any other way. The Meissonnier Ranch has been in the family since Victor Joseph Meissonnier bought 40 acres located at 2684 Dickenson Ferry Road in Merced in 1897. Meissonnier now owns 350 acres and rents another 170 acres. He beams with pride that someday soon his son Zachery, 40, will take over the ranch. “I enjoy everything about farming,” said Meissonnier. “I enjoy the mechanic work. I like fixing things. I love watching the crop grow. It starts as a seedling; you watch it grow and then you harvest it. There are a lot of challenges, but I still love it.”

Meissonnier will harvest about 85,000 pounds of rice this September from his farm. The Meissonnier Ranch was recently recognized by the California State Fair for 125 years as a continuous farming operation. Frenchy now lives at the ranch with his wife Debi, 69, who he’s been married to for nearly 30 years.

Meissonnier says it hasn’t been easy at times, but he takes pride that the family has been able to keep the ranch going from over a century and that he’ll be able to hand over the reins to his son eventually. “The hardest part was when there was no money in it to have the tenacity to reach down and pull yourself up by the boot straps,” he said. “You just had to bow your neck and say ‘I’m going to do this and it’s going to work out.’ It means everything that I can pass it on to Zach.”

Zachery says it means a lot to be able to take over the farm one day. “It’s been in the family for many years,” he said. “It’s been in our family through world wars, the Great Depression and many ups and downs. It’s good to know we’ve come this far.”

Meissonnier’s grandfather came through Ellis Island. Victor Joseph Meissonnier quickly found out life was tough as a French immigrant. He had a tough time finding a job working on the docks in New York.
Fortunately, he spoke five languages and told people he was Italian. He saved enough money to move and join his brother in California.

In 1897 Victor Joseph Meissonnier for 50 cents per acre bought the 40 acres in Merced that would become Meissonnier Ranch. He started farming rice around 1910. “I’m very proud my grandfather was the first person to grow rice commercially in Merced,” Frenchy said. “He saw some people were growing small patches of rice, but he was the first to farm it commercially.”

Eventually the ranch was passed down to Frenchy’s father, who was also named Victor, and later Frenchy’s father asked him to partner with him in 1973 at the age of 23. “Rice farming is no different than any other type of farming,” Meissonnier said. “You work seven days a week most weeks. You may take a few days off in the winter. It you’re not watching it can turn on you fast. There are a lot of disease and insects. You can’t take a day off during the growing season. Then you have to harvest it before the rain comes.”

Meissonnier said his father almost always had a second job while operating the ranch. He often drove a truck. Frenchy would also work a second job in construction or work side jobs. On the rare occasions when Meissonnier is away from the farm, he likes to travel up the coast, travel with Debi, and he’s always enjoyed riding motorcycles. “My dad has always been a hard worker,” Zachery said. “He puts 150% in everything he does at work and in his home life. He’s someone who is not to be crossed with but when you get to know him underneath all that is one of the biggest, kind-hearted, softy biker-farmers you’d ever meet who is always willing to help someone out.”

Meissonnier says he still wears many hats for the ranch, including working the books, and as a mechanic and farming the crops. He’s been teaching Zachery the tricks of the trade. Life wasn’t always easy. “In the early 80s there was 23 rice farmers in Merced,” Meissonnier said. “My dad and I bought 150 acres after rice had a high price of $12 (per 100 pounds) in 1979. The next year the cost of rice went below the cost of production at $6.50. Other rice farmers went broke. We did everything ourselves. We worked around the clock.”

He says even when times were tough he never dared sell the ranch. “When I was younger I remember my grandmother telling me ‘Never sell the land, David. Never sell the land,'” he said. “I’ve always had that ghost in my ear. I had to keep the legacy going.” After being in debt most his life, Meissonnier said things started to turn in 2000 and by 2007 he was totally out of debt. “I bought 40 acres next to me and I paid in cash,” he said. “I refuse to go back into debt again.”

Meissonnier says keeping the ranch in the family means everything to him. That’s why it was special to be recognized at the State Fair for 125 years of running a continuous farming operation. The Merced County Farm Bureau was being honored on the same stage for its 100 year anniversary — meaning the Meissonnier Ranch has been around longer than the Merced County Farm Bureau. “It was fantastic because they weren’t just recognizing me but also the two generations before me who had the tenacity to stick with it,” Meissonnier said. Meissonnier still loves the grind. “It’s a daily challenge,” he said. “Jobs will take me all day when in my younger days it would take me an hour. There’s some aches and pains, but I take pride that I can still do it.”

$6M in small business grant money authorized by Kings County board of supervisors

The Kings County board of supervisors voted 4-0 to authorize the Kings County Economic Development Corporation to execute small business contracts for grant funding through the American Rescue Plan Act.

Lance Lippincott, county Economic and Workforce Development Director, submitted a request to the board for $500,000 in grant funding to be put toward the Small Business Assistance Program his department developed. Thanks to support from county supervisors Doug Verboon and Richard Valle, Lippincott was authorized $6 million in funding, he said. “The board has been proactive in helping small businesses, especially going into the recession,” Lippincott said. The new authorization will help Kings County businesses hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic. “Healthy businesses support a healthy county,” Supervisor Richard Valle said.

According to Valle, the pandemic still generates a financial strain for some local businesses and the money will ease those burdens. Kings County as a whole faced difficulty in 2020 with getting the word out to those business owners needing the support. Some businesses were uncertain if they qualified while others were concerned about too much government overreach and involvement, he said.

While some positive impact came from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) money, the ARPA grant money provides more flexibility for qualifying businesses. The process for the grants is far easier to go through for business owners and Lippincott’s department plans to be as helpful as possible. “If in doubt, apply,” Valle added. There are requirements for businesses to be eligible for the grant money. The business must maintain a current and valid license; must have been in operation prior to March 15, 2020; and have 100 or fewer employees.

There is a fourth requirement specific to the pandemic. The business must have incurred significant financial loss attributed to COVID-19. According to Lippincott, this financial loss must be reflected in a decrease in gross receipts between 2019-20 and 2020-21. Contact the Kings County Economic Development Corporation for more information about Kings County small business grants.

Plans for housing, hotel near UC Merced campus receive show of City Council support

A proposed plan to add over 900 new housing units geared toward UC students received a unanimous show of support from the Merced City Council Monday night. Titled UC Villages, the preliminary annexation application imagines 922 new — and sorely needed — apartment units situated near the main entrance to the UC Merced campus. A percentage of the development will include affordable housing units. “Obviously, we’re in a crisis with housing our UC students,” Councilmember Fernando Echevarria said before casting his vote of support during Monday’s City Council meeting.

The tenuous availability of student housing was made clear last year when UC Merced was forced to delay the first day of in-person classes due to roughly 1,000 students still struggling to secure homes less than a month before the start of the school year. Given the support shown by the City Council, project applicant and several residents who spoke during the meeting, all signs indicate so far that the project will move along toward fruition. “I’ve been the face of this project for 16 years and I’m here to see it through. I’ve been ready for a long time and excited to get going,” project applicant Sid Lakireddy told the City Council Monday.

Echevarria also lauded Lakireddy for being mindful of issues that stalled other similar developments. Three City Council members recently rejected another proposed pre-annexation project located near UC Merced, citing a lack of attention to affordable housing and hiring locally. The opposition resulted in the project failing to garner a show of support from the council when it came time to vote.

Lakireddy noted in a letter to the city that he intends to have the project’s affordable units built during the first phase. He also stated that he plans to hire local contractors and workers to build and operate the project. “That is going to assist a lot of people who are unemployed. It’s very important,” Echevarria said.

According to preliminary planning documents, at least 12.5% of homes would be designated affordable housing spread across all income levels. Affordable units have costs fixed so that lower-income occupants spend no more than 30% of their income on housing. bee-2020-2Aerial view of the UC Merced campus in an undated photo. Lake Road runs along the bottom of the photo and its intersection with Bellevue Road is in the bottom right.

Located at the west side of Lake Road, south of Bellevue Road, the 35.6-acre mixed-use development is one of several recently proposed annexation projects poised to build much-needed housing units near the college campus. Project includes retail space, hotel

The project also has plans to construct over 1 million square feet of retail and hospitality space, including a 161-room, five-story hotel. The council’s vote Monday represented an early step in the city’s annexation pre-application process. After reviewing a project’s overview, the City Council indicates general support or non-support for an official annexation application to proceed. The project applicants then decide whether to move forward.

Per the city’s annexation process, UC Villages can’t officially join within Merced’s boundaries until plans to annex UC Merced are completed first. Lakireddy asked the council to make annexation of the campus a priority so his project and other similar proposed annexations can move forward. “I think Merced’s time is now. I think it’s time to capitalize on it and this would be a good start by annexing UC Merced,” he said.

No residents or Merced officials spoke in direct opposition of the project Monday, but some concerns were cited over spreading city services like the water and wastewater systems too thin. Sheng Xiong, a Merced resident and policy advocate with Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability, voiced concerns over how expanding north might come at the expense of drawing water away from south Merced.

Prior meetings with Merced County Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) staff also raised concerns over the city’s ability to provide the needed infrastructure and services for UC Villages, along with the other proposed pre-applications and official annexations moving forward in north Merced. Wastewater concerns were noted in particular.

According to city documents, the UC Villages project and other similar annexations would exhaust the city’s wastewater capacity. That means the phasing of each project will be critical to ensuring there’s ample capacity for each project and that the wastewater system must eventually be expanded to accommodate the developments.

California is giving millions of kids up to $1,500 for college or career training. Here’s how to get it.

Millions of kids in California can now claim at least $50 to put toward post-high school education, thanks to a new state program that launched earlier this month. The so-called Cal KIDS program’s launch comes amid rising concern about college costs in California. It’s the result of a policy effort led by Assembly member Adrin Nazarian (D–North Hollywood), who has been working on related legislation since 2014, and invests seed funding into a college savings plan for newborns and eligible public-school students.

He compares Cal KIDS to Social Security. “We’ve put into place the safety net when you’re aging, but we haven’t really necessarily made the appropriate investments for the youth who are just now starting in life,” he said. The program officially got approved in 2019, when Assembly Bill 15 passed, but was expanded last year via Assembly Bill 132. AB15 established the universal college savings plan for newborns, while AB132 allotted additional one-time and ongoing funding to provide more for low-income public-school students, foster youth and homeless children.

Max Vargas, the vice president of economic justice at the Latino Community Foundation, says the program is a great example of policy driven by equity: It has both a universal approach, and a targeted one. Latinos are the majority racial group in the California population, and they are also the group that reports the most financial need at state public universities, according to a 2021 report from the Public Policy Institute of California.

Vargas said he hopes the state continues to think about how to reach communities with the highest need for the program. “Where the need is highest, that often, sometimes, is where the trust might be lowest,” he said. “One number that jumps to mind for me is that 43% of Latino households are unbanked or underbanked — that’s not just because they didn’t hear about a bank, it’s also because they didn’t trust in some of those programs.” He said to build that trust, the state needs to reach out to partners on the ground who are able to connect with communities in both linguistically and culturally relevant ways.

Julio Martinez is the executive director of the ScholarShare board, which manages the Cal KIDS program. He said some of the state’s current partners are the California’s Department of Education and organizations that work with parents of newborns, like United Ways of California and First 5 California.

CalKIDS has a sign-up form for interested partners on its website open to public agencies and community-based organizations. “Just like with newborns, every single [eligible] public school student and their families will get a letter in the mail as well to notify them of this program,” he said. Here are answers to how you can access the money, eligibility requirements and more.

Who is eligible for the program?

All kids born in California from July 1, 2022, onwards and low-income public-school students in grades 1 through 12. You do not need to be a U.S. citizen to be eligible, which Nazarian said has always been his intention for the program. “It does not matter who you are, what your family standing is — if you were born in California, or if at some point you’re a student in California who moved in by the time you’re in first grade, you will be able to take advantage of this program,” he said. “The goal is to tell everyone, every California resident, you have an opportunity to be invested in.”

There is an eligibility tool public school students and guardians can use to figure out if they have a CalKIDS account. The CalKIDS website translates into 16 different languages, including Spanish, Hmong, Tagalog, Farsi, Vietnamese and simplified Chinese. You’ll need your Statewide Student Identifier, which you can see on your report cards or get via asking your school or school district directly.

How much money is available through the program?

Kids born on or after July 1, 2022, have a baseline deposit of $25 into their CalKIDS account, upped automatically to $50 once parents create an account online. The state has 90 days to receive birth data and create an account, so there may be a lag before a newborn’s account is created. If parents or guardians link a new or existing ScholarShare 529 account to their newborn’s CalKIDS account, they get an additional $50 deposit. Eligible low-income public-school students in grades 1 through 12 have a baseline deposit of $500 into their CalKIDS account. An additional $500 is deposited into the account for foster youth and homeless students.

What do I need to claim my CalKIDS account?

To claim the account, you’ll need to register online. There are three pieces of information the system asks for; no social security or taxpayer identification number is needed to access the money.

For an account linked to a newborn, you’ll need:

  • The name of the county where the child’s birth was registered
  • The child’s date of birth
  • Registration code, which can be either the local registration number located on the birth certificate or the unique CalKIDS code included in the letter sent out to eligible families

For an account linked to an eligible 1st through 12th grade student, you’ll need:

  • The name of the county where the student was enrolled in public school as of Oct. 6, 2021 (the Fall Academic Census Day 2021)
  • The student’s date of birth
  • Registration code, which can be either the Statewide Student Identifier (SSID, check student report cards or contact the school or school district to get this information) or the unique CalKIDS code included in the letter sent out to eligible families

What else do I need to know about the money?

The money from the account can’t be retrieved and used until a student turns at least 17 and is ready to enroll at an institution of higher education, Martinez said. For parents or guardians to directly contribute to a college savings account, they’ll have to open a separate ScholarShare 529 plan. A ScholarShare 529 plan offers parents 17 different investment options, with the most common one being an “age-based portfolio.”

That age-based mode of investing is what happens to the money allotted through the CalKIDS program. The money isn’t taxed as long as it’s used for tuition, room and board, books, supplies or computer equipment at a qualified higher education institution, which can include community college, trade school or a four-year university.  To opt out of the CalKIDS account for any reason, you’ll need to print out and mail a completed opt-out form, available in English and in Spanish, to the ScholarShare Investment board.

San Joaquin agency to receive $3.9M for hybrid electric buses

STOCKTON — San Joaquin Regional Transit District was awarded $3.9 million in grant funding from the Federal Transit Administration to expand its hybrid electric bus fleet. The expansion will allow RTD to enhance its service in underserved and marginalized neighborhoods in Stockton, the agency said. RTD is one of 12 local agencies to receive a share of more than $1.175 billion from the FTA’s Low or No Emission Vehicle Program, also known as a Low-No grant, designed to help transit agencies modernize their fleets with advanced technologies to improve air quality by reducing greenhouse gases.

The Low-No grant will assist in purchasing five new Gillig hybrid electric buses allowing RTD to expand and increase the service frequency of routes 525 and 576. These routes currently serve areas identified by the United States Department of Transportation San Joaquin County Census Tract as Historically Disadvantaged Communities.

Investments in these communities align with President Biden’s Justice40 Initiative and the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution District’s mission of improving Central Valley residents’ health and quality of life. “It is important we continue to invest not only in cleaner vehicles but also in the infrastructure needed to support them,” Senator Alex Padilla said in Tuesday’s media statement. “That is why I will continue to advocate for more funding to transition to buses that are better for our environment and public health.”

Projects were selected based on several factors including air quality benefits, economic competitiveness, financial leverage, transformational impact, and readiness to implement. “We are grateful to the FTA, Senator (Alex) Padilla, and the California congressional delegation for securing this funding,” RTD CEO Alex Clifford said in a Tuesday media statement. “RTD is committed to providing equitable transportation to the residents of our community while also being good stewards of the environment, and this grant allows us to do both,” he added. “Our goal is to increase service levels and frequency, providing better access to employment, education, healthcare, and shopping offering more opportunities and impacting the lives of many residents.”

This new Texas-sized restaurant will bring 225 jobs to Turlock when it opens in fall

A new national restaurant chain is poised to give Turlock a Texas-sized welcome this fall. Work on the new Texas Roadhouse on Countryside Drive continues, with plans for a mid-October opening for the popular steakhouse chain. To get ready for its debut, the company is accepting applications to staff the massive new restaurant. Hiring is underway to fill some 225 jobs, including front- and back-of-house positions. Applicants can go to the Texas Roadhouse careers page at Walk-in interviews are also being conducted from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Saturday in the former Army/Navy recruiting center in the same Countryside Plaza Shopping Center, across the parking lot from the restaurant construction site.

AA Texas Roadhouse4.jpgA new Texas Roadhouse restaurant on Countryside Drive will open in by mid-October 2022. Photographed in Turlock, Calif., on August 23, 2022. Applicants should take their resumes and two forms of identification to the walk-up interviews. The company’s careers page lists more than a dozen open positions, from service manager to line cook, baker to bartender and more.

The restaurant chain is known for its big steaks and Texas-themed ambiance, which includes free peanuts and fresh baked bread at tables. Founded in 1993, the company is actually headquartered in Kentucky. The steakhouse chain has 610 locations in 49 states as well as international sites.
The Turlock location will be the chain’s first in the Central Valley city. It will replace the city’s old Hometown Buffet, which closed permanently during the pandemic. The new company chose to tear down the existing building to build the distinctive 8,300-square-foot Texas Roadhouse, with construction starting earlier this year.

A company representative said the Turlock site is among the chain’s larger restaurant models and will be able to seat 420 people at a time. That will make it one of the city’s largest-capacity restaurants, if not the outright largest. This will be the second Texas Roadhouse location in Stanislaus County. The first opened in Modesto in 2013 on Sisk Road and has been a popular draw ever since. This year, the national steakhouse chain was ranked the 27th top largest national restaurant chain by Nation’s Restaurant News, an industry trade journal, with $3.4 billion in sales last year.

Another industry trade journal, FSR, ranked the company No. 4 in casual chain earnings per restaurant this year — with $6.4 million earned per year per restaurant. Once open, the new Turlock Texas Roadhouse will serve dine-in and takeout daily for dinner, and weekends for lunch and dinner. For more information, visit

Fresno Program Steers Eager Workers to Good Paying Trucker Jobs

Corina Hernandez is going trucking to build a better life for herself and her 15-year-old son. “I hope that I will be able to buy a home for me and my son,” she said. Hernandez is one of 24 students at the John Lawson Trucking School, newly reopened in a JD Food facility near Fresno. Funded by federal dollars through the Fresno Economic Development Corporation, the school held a ribbon cutting Thursday.

Lee Ann Eager with Fresno EDC says the school wants to double the number of students with funds from the Good Jobs Challenge grant, part of its Welfare to Work program. Fresno EDC pays the training costs, estimated at $3,000 per student. “We’re hoping, with our new grant, to be able to double that and hire new teachers, new trainers, and really be able to do maybe 50 students in a cohort get some more trucks,” Eager said.

For Hernandez, she left the medical field as a certified nursing assistant for better pay. “I realized that that wasn’t for me. And I have family and friends that work in the trucking industry, and they kind of told me some of the benefits. And it is a growing industry for female truckers,” Hernandez, 32 of Fresno, said. She is halfway through the 12-week truck driving course. The Fresno County Department of Social Services helped steer her in the direction of the school. “Women can do it just as much as men. And it’s a great job opportunity,” she said.

JD Food: We Need a Lot of Truck Drivers

More truckers could not come at a better time. Mark Ford, president of JD Food, wants to hire more truckers to deliver food and industrial supplies throughout California. “It’s a lot of miles covered,” Ford said. “We need a lot of truck drivers. We send trucks into L.A. every day. We send trucks into the Bay Area every day, too.” JD Food employs 32 drivers, but Ford wants to expand. He says there are 80,000 openings nationwide. “We’re always looking for truck drivers. Our fleet is growing. Our drivers are always growing. And it’s just a great career, too,” Ford said.

Ford says a shortage due to the pandemic is easing. Their best recruitment tool is word of mouth — employees can earn bonuses for referrals. A driver could earn $60,000 a year. JD Food bought its facility on Central Avenue at Minnewawa in 2021 to accommodate expansion. But it was too much space. “I saw the need (for more truckers). I reached out to (Fresno EDC) and said, we have a pretty nice office that we’re not using at all. Would that be something that you’d be able to use? And so, they looked at it. They thought it was great,” Ford said.

Electric Trucks Coming, But When?

Students practice driving skills on two diesel trucks. Eager says the next truck the school purchases will be either electric or hydrogen powered. “We expect to have everything, the electric or hydrogen by 2035. So obviously we need to be planning for that. And there are incentives for trucking companies to look at electric trucks,” Eager said. Eager is also chairwoman of the California Transportation Commission. “We know what (switching to electric) means for all of us. So as the transportation commission, we are looking at what are those ways that we can ensure that the people of the Central Valley can breathe good air. And I’m certainly supportive of how we get to that place. And getting people into zero-emission vehicles is a priority,” Eager said.

She says if ZEV are manufactured in California, that could reduce costs. Ford is hesitant to add non-diesel trucks to his fleet. “We’re pausing and waiting right now. The technology is not there to meet our needs because we go such a distance and the distance that we travel would not accommodate the needs of the electric power vehicles,” Ford said. “As the technology develops, we’re definitely going to be a part of that.”

High-Speed Rail Authority Completes Overpass, Opens Roadway to Traffic in Madera County

MADERA COUNTY, Calif. – The California High-Speed Rail Authority (Authority), in collaboration with contractor Tutor-Perini / Zachry / Parsons, announced today the Avenue 15 ½ Grade Separation in Madera County is now open to traffic. The new overpass is located at Road 29 / Santa Fe Drive, east of the City of Madera. It took 16 pre-cast concrete girders and nearly 117 pre-cast concrete deck panels to complete the structure, which spans 468 feet, is 40 feet wide and takes traffic over the existing BNSF rail and future high-speed rail lines.

Completing another structure in the Central Valley is the latest sign of progress for the high-speed rail project. At its Board of Directors meeting earlier this month, the Authority awarded two contracts to advance design along the Merced to Madera and Fresno to Bakersfield Locally Generated Alternative project sections, expanding the 119-mile segment to 171 miles of electrified high-speed rail under development and construction.

In addition, the Board also approved the environmental documents for the San Francisco to San Jose project section, meaning 422 of the 500-mile high-speed rail system between San Francisco and Los Angeles has been environmentally cleared. Earlier this summer, the Authority announced the creation of more than 8,000 jobs since the start of the project, with a majority going to residents in the Central Valley.

NEWS RELEASE: High-Speed Rail Authority Completes Overpass, Opens Roadway to Traffic in Madera County – California High Speed Rail

Fresno State ranks atop CSU; amongst highest in West in national university rankings

Fresno State – with a mission to educate and empower students for success – ranked No. 36 in Washington Monthly’s 2022 National University Rankings of colleges and universities that best serve the country in the areas of social mobility, research and public service.

The University also ranked No. 22 in the Best Bang for the Buck: West category, published Monday, for how well it helps non-wealthy students attain marketable degrees at affordable prices. Washington Monthly, known for its annual rankings of American colleges and universities, has published its list of top schools for the past 18 years with what it calls “a different kind of college ranking,” calling attention to colleges based on their contribution to the public good, not prestige or wealth.

This is the seventh straight year Fresno State has ranked among the top 50 national universities among 442 total – and the seventh straight year Fresno State has been the highest-ranked campus in the California State University system.

At No. 36, Fresno State ranks alongside notable Pac 12 Conference institutions, including No. 1 Stanford, No. 9 University of California, Berkeley; No. 19 Washington; and No. 21 UCLA. Fresno State set a record-high in research grants for the 2020-21 academic year, receiving 356 grants for $48.2 million. The University recently earned R2 designation as a “Doctoral University – High Research Activity” by the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education, highlighting a significant commitment to growing research activities. Fresno State awarded 76 doctoral degrees in the past academic year. The University offers doctoral degrees in nursing, physical therapy and educational leadership.

Students, faculty and staff continued their long-standing culture of service by providing more than 1 million hours of service to community organizations for the 13th year in a row. The Central Valley, which is represented by the green V featured on Fresno State’s Bulldog logo, spans from Bakersfield in the south to Sacramento in the north – an area roughly the size of the state of Tennessee. As the only major city in the U.S. within an hour’s drive of three national parks, Fresno is the hub of the most productive agricultural region in the world.

Fresno State continues to show its commitment to education and the community in various ways, including:

  • Three faculty and one student earned Fulbright research awards this year. Sydney Fox, a biochemistry major who graduated this past spring, earned the Fulbright U.S. Student Program award to conduct research at Reykjavik University in Iceland. Dr. Benjamin Boone (music) will study musical pedagogy and create and record new music at the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance at the University of Limerick. Dr. Melanie Ram (political science) will research sub-regional intergovernmental organizations that emerged in Europe since the end of the Cold War in Trieste, Italy, at the University of Zagreb and the University of Bucharest. Dr. Devendra Sharma (communication) will research swang-nautanki, a folk opera tradition in Northern India, and its traditional akhārās, the swang-nautanki community performance groups.
  • The Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences and Technology received $18.75 million in one-time funding from the state to provide infrastructure needed to build programs that prepare future generations for regenerative agriculture practices. This will build long-term stability for food and agricultural systems in the face of changing climate patterns.
  • Sociology Professor Dr. Amber Crowell received a $350,000 National Science Foundation grant to analyze long-term patterns and trends of residential segregation in urban areas, connecting present-day segregation patterns to their historical roots in a project called “Mapping the Origins of Segregation using GIS Resources.”

Fresno State is also among the nation’s best colleges when it comes to quality, affordability and outcomes ranking No. 29 in Money’s 2022 Best Colleges list announced May 16.